Thursday, 24 May 2012

New York SuperStore - B&H Photo Video

New York SuperStore - B&H Photo Video We visited B&H on a rainy May 2012 NYC tour day just looking for an inexpensive point and shoot camera. The huge store has a Harry-Potter-ish feel with a larger than life scope and a bit of a cultural shock in how tourists are supposed to shop. The overhead trolley system was the first thing I noticed - they sell you your gear upstairs and then roll your selection down to checkout in big green bins magically appearing near the front door exits for you to pay for and walk out the door. But first: you walk around the floors above and see what is available at the meagre 70,000 sq foot display space. Most of the staff are Orthodox Jews and of course native New York speakers. Unlike traditional stores, you can't just make your selection and purchase it within the store. No, first you have to meet with a sales person to see what you like. They have hundreds/thousands of items on display all over the store to touch and feel. If you like something, they will print out an order request form for you. Then you go stand in a line to speak to a second sales person behind long counters that circle the display area. I'm pretty sure we talked to Gerald R Photo Sales Professional at this point. He puts you in their computer and takes the sales order and helps you select extra warranty and or kits and such. Then, finally, all your selections are placed in a big green bin and you get a printed sales order. Then you get to go downstairs and stand in a long airline security type queue again to wait to pay for your selected items while your bins roll around overhead. Finally you go to another desk where your purchases from the green bins have been put in bags ready for pickup. We exit the store and look at each other .. whoa, that was different.

The promotional About Us video from the link above is slickified but gives you a taste of what our in store shopping experience was like. Fun, loud, busy, kind of magical. Put me in mind of scenes of the Gringotts Wizarding Bank from the Harry Potter movies ... maybe we should have had Hagrid as a tour guide.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Ubuntu 12.04 vs. Windows 8: Five points of comparison | ZDNet

Ubuntu 12.04 vs. Windows 8: Five points of comparison | ZDNet

Upgraded to 12.04 last month and so far everything is great. All my software selections carried over and all are working fine. I can still run WinXP if needed for my work as needed in VirtualBox .. like yesterday when I was walking a client through how to stop a fake antivirus program that had invaded her XP machine .. he he

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time - Tony Schwartz - Harvard Business Review

The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time - Tony Schwartz - Harvard Business Review
Multi-tasking vs Priority-listing. I suppose it does depend on your goals and personality. I found this article appealing despite my preference of having the TV or radio as background noise while flitting from computer to computer (I see little reason in sitting and staring down the screen while a program updates or downloads or whatever - it should wait for me, not the other way around). On the other hand, there is some sense to the idea of getting that most important task done (taxes anyone) on time when required.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Chamber Meeting Notice Tue 13 Mar 2012 7:25am Roosters

Meeting Notice Tue 13 Mar 2012 7:25am Roosters Print

Reminder - Early Morning Chamber Meeting Tue 13 Mar 2012 at 7:25 AM at Roosters!

If you can make it out to our meeting that would be great!

  • Trade Show 2 .. We are busy preparing for our upcoming Spring Trade Show, our 2nd annual!
  • Magrath Pharmacy suggests we consider a New Year's Baby contest sponsored by the Magrath Chamber for the first baby of the new year born in our area.
  • Welcome to new Chamber Members!


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Mormonism 101: FAQ - LDS Newsroom

Mormonism 101: FAQ - LDS Newsroom
I found this useful in summarizing the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Yes, Virginia, there is a Mormon Blogger on your computer .. he he

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Canada Get Your Business Online see:

I read this on the net the other day and said, hmm I wonder if it works: "Websites are now free for all Canadian businesses. If you're a business owner without a website, you probably have a good reason for it. Maybe you thought it was too expensive or took too much time?  Maybe you were overwhelmed by the technology and didn't know where to start? Canada Get Your Business Online is a new program that provides businesses a fast, free, and easy way to get online. Google is investing in Canadian businesses by creating and by paying for your .ca domain registry for 12 months. Yola is providing you with hosting, their leading site building tool, and support."

Sure, I thought .. although, I suppose Google has much to gain by having more businesses online to purchase their services .. so, I gave it a whirl.

1) Free .ca domain name (for first year - thereafter about $30/yr). It only took a few minutes to select and submit and then simply answered a phone call to my number confirming I lived in Canada. Done. Never had to give any credit card information.
2) Hosted by website .. also free (for first year - thereafter up to $10/mo). Selected a template (basic) and added an applet (a link to my tumblr blog aka Previewed and Published. Easy.
3) A while later the website was live on the internet. Wow.

Of course, now they would like to sell us on their 'other services' such as: " To increase your marketing reach, you might consider: 
 • AdWords - Target customers locally or anywhere in the world. Pay only for ads that bring prospects to you.
 • Google Base - Add your entire catalog to our free product search site.
 • Google Checkout - Sell online with Google Checkout and increase sales by driving more traffic and higher conversions.
Maybe later ..

Roger Davies .. the computer guy
at Soft Serve Direct in Magrath, AB

Fear of a Google planet | Blog | Futurismic

Fear of a Google planet | Blog | Futurismic

I searched this out in response to a series of recent requests from some of my recent requests to 'uninstall Google' and to 'remove Gmail and Google Search' from their computer. Hmm. I am starting to see a pattern, but I am unsure of just where the source might be.

Why don't you want your Gmail account anymore? I suppose it stems from the recent mudslinging regarding Google's forthcoming change to it's privacy policy and it's deciding to 'combine' our user data, the information we freely gave it in exchange for the ability to freely use their resources, across their varied projects and services. Isn't that a good thing? If I call up company X and want to discuss their product Y and Z, shouldn't Mr X know all about my dealings with both Y and Z?

Mr Raven makes a good point, actually several good points. Google is chosen for use. It only has a de facto 'monopoly' because we all choose to use it. Why aren't we all Bing'ing or Yahoo'ing or whatever the next search name of the day will be? How is Google forcing anyone of us to use it's (often free) services except by being magnanimous enough to be the best at what it does.

So .. back to my sweet little old customers. I love them dearly, but really fail to see any reason or benefit to make a switch. I use a free version of Google Apps for Business for my own email - spam is way down, it works from any internet station I happen to be working on, and it maintains and updates itself. Sweet. In their cases, one switched from Gmail (back) to Incredimail (a questionable product 'in my opinion' at best see, one switched to Thunderbird, keeping Gmail (just a bit under duress) on my advise, and another switched to Yahoo Mail exclusively.

I expect to be called back soon to de-virus-fy the Incredimail user's computer. The Thunderbird computer user will continue to require training on how to perform basic tasks on her computers (Thunderbird on her XP works differently than the Win7 version and contacts are not synced between the stations). My Yahoo emailer got into trouble by forgetting her email username and password. She was frustrated by Google's insistence of a human-check captcha entry after so many wrong passwords, and someone told her that Yahoo was so much easier to send photo attachments with.

Oh well. Meanwhile, back (here) at the ranch, I will continue using Google for Search and Email and Image Manipulation, and Blogging and whatever else is cool .. and free. Now, back to my TV show - the commercials are almost over.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Power of Music – Mac Strong & Matt Bardsley - Episode 23 | Mormon Channel

Power of Music – Mac Strong & Matt Bardsley - Episode 23 | Mormon Channel

Listened to this broadcast as I was contemplating putting together a narrative for our upcoming Stake Easter Musical Fireside. Have settled on theme using concepts from our Preach My Gospel Chapter 6 Developing Christlike Attributes manual. I hope it turns out .. I am sure it will .. I hope.

Friday, 2 March 2012

LDS Gems will resume under the new name "Inspirational Messages."

Dear subscriber,

LDS Gems will resume under the new name "Inspirational Messages." Some significant improvements have been made to simplify and optimize the system. Because you originally opted to receive LDS Gems, you will immediately begin to receive notifications again, unless you choose to unsubscribe [via the 'unsubscribe now' link below]. Here are some of the features you can expect:
  • Short, inspirational messages selected from the scriptures, general conference addresses, and First Presidency messages
  • Multiple delivery and frequency options available through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or RSS
  • Text message option (coming soon)
  • A new section on where all past messages will be labeled, indexed, and stored [ study/messages?lang=eng]
We hope you enjoy Inspirational Messages and thank you for subscribing.

Create Your Epub Ebooks with Sigil Ebook Editor

Create Your Epub Ebooks with Sigil Ebook Editor

I have used Sigil briefly, but forgot that it can be used as a standalone EPUB electronic book creator. I am working on my 'The Power of Procrastination - A Practical Guide' magnum opus and plan to consider using this program to assist me in my initial efforts. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Port Redirection .. what is working

Port Redirection .. what is working and what is not .. Some assembly required.

I am testing out a Ubuntu Server 11.10 installation with Webmin and Virtualmin on my test server. It is not quite as slick as SMEServer, but it does seem to be working AND it has all the latest versions of mysql and php, etc. But .. it is a lot of work - by design. The explanation that has made the most sense to me is the Lego vs Toy comparison.  Say you want to get a birthday present. You have a choice. You can buy a finished toy like a plane or a car and be done with it, or you can get some Lego blocks and build whatever you want in what ever color or size limited only by the number of blocks you have available to you. In that sense, Ubuntu and Linux in particular is like the build-it-yourself Lego. Most other operating systems are more like the store-bought toys. You can have lots of fun with either choice, but the Lego requires more from you to assemble what you want out of the pieces provided .. and therein is all the fun. The pre-built toys are what-you-see-is-what-you-get .. with only limited pre-defined customization possible (and sometimes prohibited) and with the corresponding dollar cost being much greater (compared to the Lego's they are giving away for free).
ok .. so I mentioned that I use the service to point the internet to my name to my local servers here in sunny southern alberta. It has worked great for many years now. I highly recommend their service.
I also use and have read both praise and rantings from current and former users. I just pay my yearly fee and it seems to work fine. No fuss. No bother. So I am a happy user. However, the port redirection so far is not working from them.
Just as can create 'webhops', my 1and1 host can create what they call subdomains. Compare:
Sidebar: May intentionally not put an index.htm file at root from time to time .. I may later, but for now it just lists the files and folders sitting on my test server. Also, you may wonder how I came to use 8880 as the port to be redirected. Well, my test server is named ww8 (locally), and wordpress complained if the user selected port was less than 1024 so I settled on 8880 to redirect to server port 80. I suppose you could choose about any value you wanted.
Will keep trying, and trying, and ..

Monday, 27 February 2012

You Smell, Fruity!

I came back from lunch and my co-worker commented, "Hmmm .. you smell fruity." Yup, I had just grabbed a mandarin and peeled and then ate it on the way back from my lunch break. My first thought was, just where was the comma (if any) placed? I love our native tongue, but it has to be cooked properly first to be truly enjoyed. "You, smell fruity" is a command, "You smell, fruity" is a comment on my personal hygiene plus the addition of a new nickname, and "You smell fruity" could just be a nice observation on my new cologne. Language always was my worst subject, I look so much better on paper. You also have to listen for the snark-mark and decide if they are saying it in a threatening, amused, or angry manner. No wonder no one understands me. And that smells .. fruity.

Kindle, Kindle .. come out where ever you are ..

I bought a Kindle 3 last year. Long story: it was lost for a while in a third world country (Bonaire), but eventually found it's way home to me. Meanwhile, my daughters sprang for a replacement Kindle Touch for me for Christmas. Thanks Kids! So .. I (am supposed to) have two. It usually works out great, as I have two pockets in my suit jacket that they fit into quite well. It is often convenient to have two references open at once at church or in study. Mostly, they are used as replacement scriptures and lesson manuals and whatever. The bells and whistles of other devices fade in comparison to the crystal ink, usability and readability of my Kindles and they save me from lugging around my old 40 lb Samsonite briefcase. 

Sidebar: see the results of the conversion/merging of the Book of Mormon + Study Guide for the Kindle at .. I plan to document the steps required to convert from PDF > DOC > EPUB > MOBI = XML .. OK? Later.

Anyway, I have a Kindle Touch and a Kindle 3. Last week, the Kindle 3 disappeared shortly after our return from church. It was eventually found next to my computer under another book. Hmmm. This weekend the Kindle Touch also disappeared and eventually miraculously appeared under my daughters pillow in her room. Ahhh. So .. perhap we need some kind of GPS tracking device or a clapper/beeper function to be able to locate lost or stolen devices like this. THAT would be cool .. 

Googlighting: Microsoft's way of running for 'Office' - Page 1 - Leadership

Googlighting: Microsoft's way of running for 'Office' - Page 1 - Leadership

Funny ad .. but how true can any 'attack style' advertising be? They are over-exaggerating the Googdangers to try to change the transfer of your dollars from someone else's pockets back into their own. Has Microsoft ever killed a feature, moved a menu around, changed the way things used to work (ahem .. vista, word ribbon ..)? Can I get an 'upgrade' from the audience? Has a cool product ever just been scrapped? What ever happened to Bob? He seemed nice. Ever make a program obsolete? Try to make everyone 'upgrade' simply because they want you to try out a new operating system.They seem to be stuck on 'how can so much of it be free' - as in no charge, without exchange of dollars, open. The concept is simple. Remember broadcast TV? You know, the old kind before cable and satellite and internet. They paid for the service by selling advertising! We got to watch shows without cost over the air by permitting ourselves to become their product rather than their customer. Of course, in order to keep 'us' as products, they had to provide fabulous (enough) content so that we would keep watching. Ever hear of Nielsen ratings? It is in Google's best interest to keep providing excellent (enough) products so that we continue to function as their products for their paying advertisers as we consume their Googcontent and use their 'free' Googservices.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

The dangers of phishing and malware scam email | Linux Tech Show - Category5 TV on Blip

The dangers of phishing and malware scam email | Linux Tech Show - Category5 TV on Blip

Very scary .. paypal phishing webpage that looks pretty legit but that will just let the bad guys steal your money ... both that in your paypal account AND potentially money in your bank account linked to your paypal account. Yikes!

Broken printer will not install .. unless connected

Just spent a half hour trying to see why an old Lexmark 2030 Color Jetprinter would not install on a Win7 64 bit computer. Downloads several drivers that would not work. Never seemed to get any response
from the printer. Finally decided to check the connections. Oh .. the cable to the printer is an old style DB25 cable type and the new computer only has USB. I suppose we could look for a USB to DB25 like
but that is $20 by itself and no guarantee that a driver exists for this old printer anyway. Ended up ordering an inkjet HP printer from Best Buy and will install it for client next week. Yay. The old printer has been sitting here since the old computer was replaced - looking like it might work, but sadly, no.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Time for a new chair or a new diet?

Much like a butterfly, I like to zoom from station to station as I work. I don't much like waiting for computers much, especially old slow ones like the ones I have and fix - currently 5-6 working computers in the back office with various routers and switches - and the TV. So if a computer is taking too long to do whatever I have told it to do, I move on to the next one and the next task. Today I was working in the office on my rolling desk chair, a favorite that the kids gave me for Christmas a few years back. It is starting to look a bit worn but so far has functioned fine. I was a bit disconcerted when the first plastic wheel exploded on me, but I still had 4 of 5 working wheels. No problem. I kept working and zooming. When the second wheel gave out a few minutes later, I started thinking .. just what gigantic overweight elf had been sneaking into my private office and sitting on my chair. Goldilocks perhaps? At first I thought I could lose the remaining wheels, but then I lose my zoom and about 2 inches of chair height, and I soon found that the center post rides lower than the wheel base. It makes an interesting 360 degree rocking chair. I know that replacement wheels could be installed, but I am cheap. Maybe I will check out my favorite aisle at the thrift store .. or go on a diet.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Family Day / No School Week

Family Day / No School Week - I have no plans for the big Day Off .. if it were all up to me I would just tell everyone to just go back to school and to work. At least the weather is cooperating for anyone wishing to be out of doors.

My daughter is catching up on Seasons 1-6 of the Flintstones - after some creative photo play. I am updating my websites and blogs. Mrs Me is out supporting our local businesses with a gaggle of girl friends. So, just a another fun week at our home.

Friday, 17 February 2012

The sharpest tool in the toolbox ..

Reference: CMS Technology Web Usage Statistics

The graphic on this website startled me. Why didn't any one tell me? Wordpress is King? I had no idea. Of course, the statistics only measure quantity not quality. Wordpress may have a huge number of sites (really over 60% ?), but are they being viewed and do they provide useful information? How would you or I know? Are they all created by pre-teen web gurus? Are they being maintained? How many big business sites use them? Do they all 'look' like cookie cutter Wordpress websites?

As a local Chamber of Commerce member, would I recommend your company to rely on a generic 'free' webservice? I suppose, if you are OK with the 'possibility' of web outages or service problems. They seem to be easy to create and maintain for the DIYer. For the past decade, I have run my own webserver (using SMEServer) and hosted my own websites (mostly using Joomla for my business sites). For the most part, there have been very few system outages - the only ones of note have been when power was lost to our entire region or when Shaw Internet fell over and lay there twitching for a day or so. Otherwise, I have complete control over my own content and have much greater flexiblity in terms of storage limits and software. My customers live here. They are my neighbors and friends. If my power is out, likely so is theirs and so I can live with that. Meanwhile, I was noting a sub-site I was setting up for the Magrath Chamber Tradeshow ( this past week (hosted by Google for Apps Sites) was broken for a while. The site displayed an error for certain app gadgets that had been installed (from Google). Since they provide the service out of the kindness of their hearts for free to us, I had no clue who to call and start the fix. The problem was resolved a day or so later, but it got me thinking. What is on these sites that I could do without if they decided to discontinue the service or if it suddenly broke or stopped working?

On the other hand, my local webserver is plodding along on a version of linux created in 2006 and last seriously updated way back in 2010 (see with an update being 'worked on' as time permits by a dedicated but unpaid open source volunteer group. I would love to have a newer version of PHP or MySQL available, but seriously hesitate striking off on my own path for a production system. Why fix what is not really broken? I have started looking at replacement systems (Ubuntu Server for example), but have found nothing that comes close to the elegance and simplicity of the SMEServer system for usability. I have a dedicated test computer running Ubuntu Server and all I get is a blank terminal to which I am supposed to type in some arcane command at the command line to create new users and their quotas or to set up domains and the appropriate security. On SMEServer, all I do is log in as Admin and I get a control panel where I can just click and command to my hearts delight. Anything more complex than the screen below makes my head hurt and tempts me to go back to my life long project - the completion of the first draft of my proposed book on 'The Power of Procrastination' ...

Maybe the cloud is now the way to go? Don't you already use gmail, twitter, facebook, youtube, and more. Perhaps I need to rethink this whole thing.

Lost on the Net ..

Lost on the Net ..

I can’t settle on a favorite platform to post my insights on. I like Joomla but all my Joomla websites enjoy the almost exact look and feel. OK for ‘my’ sites, but not everyone wants to look just like me (he he). I am also testing out tumblr and twitter and facebook and google+ and even wordpress and weebly and google sites.This post was originally on tumblr which should have forwarded to twitter which should be passed on my 3 friends at facebook, but getting that content back from those sites to links on my websites is unnecessarily awkward. I usually end up double posting the content back where it should end up .. like here .. when I get time. Joomla is a CMS that I never use as one, because I really only have those 3 friends. So most of my sites end up like a large personal blog. Setting up a Joomla site for others to use has been less than successful due to the need to train users in entering passwords and basic html code. Their eyes start crossing and I have to back them slowly away from the computer screen.

Weebly was selected for the Magrath Museum website and it was easily mastered by the summer intern, but needs some full time tending. Content is king and I don’t have access to it unless I go work at the Museum (although my kids would say I belong there).

Google Sites has been used with some success for Westwinds Soccer. They only update it during the soccer season (a short season in Canada) and last year I convinced them to use an embedded Google Spreadsheet to report the League Standings with some success. It will remain to be seen if they will be able to update the site for 2012 without some assistance.

The Magrath Chamber of Commerce is a site I am donating space and time to. The primary site is on my webserver using Joomla with links to Google Sites for projects like the upcoming Tradeshow. This approach allows for quick implementation and presentation of information for chamber projects without major webdesign project on the main site. I simply include a menu link to the Tradeshow on my main Joomla site and back to the Chamber site from the Google Sites page with similar theme and it seems to work ok.

Finally, a word on Social Media .. Google+ vs Twitter vs Facebook. Still find it awkward to use successfully. I would like to use my multiple personalities but these sites want only to know the actual me. I would like to post as Magrath Chamber when acting as their spokesperson and as Soft Serve Direct when wearing my business hat and only as R Davies when posting my own family news. Similar problem with email: I have Gmail accounts for all these same entities. To their credit, Google is making recent strides in letting me ‘switch identity’ as needed between my various email accounts.

Meanwhile, my webdesign efforts are much like my kindergarten art projects - various interesting pieces of information glued together in awkward ways with occasional missing links, that once in a while could be considered a masterpiece (by my mom).

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Is my blog working?

Is My Blog Working? Is your webpage/blog working? How do you know? Veronica Belmont of has shown us the way .. again. She reported a new free utility website called that checks for you and reports back all sorts of neat techie info. You just enter in the site you want to check on their main page, or append it to the end for a quick shortcut e.g.

Yay .. along the same lines, I like the website which is extremely handy if you need to know what IP address (kinda like a call display number to the web) you are using. You need this info if you want two computers to find and talk directly to each other over the internet. It is also a quick and easy way to see if your internet connection is still working.
And if it is working .. just how fast is it? Go to for a free utility to measure how long it takes to upload and download a test file. Cool.

Now, how can they afford to provide free services like these? I don't know, but I like using them. Perhaps is is a public service provided by a beneficent business who make their money in other ways .. kind of like the content on this website.